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Episode #329: The Secret of Scheduling Success, with Dr. Pat Lillis

the best practices show podcast Aug 20, 2021
dr. pat lillis

Time is one thing that dentists give away the most. And if you don’t learn to run your schedule, it will run you! So, to help you become a master of your time, Kirk Behrendt brings back Dr. Pat Lillis with tips for managing your practice calendar. His first piece of advice: don't let your patients run your schedule! Categorize and pre-block procedures to better organize your time. If you're tired of working crazy hours and want to know more secrets of scheduling success, listen to Episode 329 of The Best Practices Show!

Main Takeaways:

  • One of the best parts of dentistry is being able to choose your hours.  
  • Time is the most valuable commodity we have.
  • Master your scheduling early in your career.
  • Break your schedule into major and minor times.
  • Know how long procedures take so you can pre-block your schedule.
  • Don't reschedule patient cancellations right away.
  • Have a nonrefundable deposit on your time.
  • Don't let anybody tell you you can't do something — you can!


  • “The longer you practice, the more you maybe appreciate this, but I think the most valuable commodity we have is time.” (05:28—05:34)
  • “About two-and-a-half, three years ago, I was talking to Bob Margeas. He said, ‘You know, you should go three-and-a-half days a week.’ I said, ‘I can't do it!’ And he’s like, ‘What do you mean you can't do it?’ I said, ‘Agh! I can't do it! I've got to be there four days a week because I've got to get all the cases in.’ He’s like, ‘Listen, you won't miss a beat if you go three-and-a-half days a week.’ I said, ‘I don't know.’ So, I took the leap of faith about two-and-a-half years ago. I met with the team. I brought them all in. I said, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do. I'm going to leave Thursday at noon.’ And, of course, everybody freaks out. They say, ‘Well, you can't do it because we’ve got to see our patients,’ and this and that. And it’s totally not true. So, I work three-and-a-half days a week. And I've got to tell you, one of the best things I've ever done.” (06:22—07:05)
  • “My grandfather was a dentist. I grew up four houses from him. And every day, on the nose at 5:00, he'd be honking his horn driving home from work. And my dad was an attorney, and he didn't get home until like 9:00, 9:30. So, people always say, ‘How'd you get into dentistry?’ I say, ‘Well, I saw my grandpa. He was home every day at 5:00. I thought that was the coolest thing ever.’ I learned early on how he scheduled. He was a master of scheduling. Even 35, 40 years ago, he was doing this stuff.” (09:36—10:06)
  • “We break our day up into halves, and we bisect it by lunch. So, we have major and minor times in our schedule. I've got to be honest with you, by the time the afternoon comes around, I get tired. I'm just not that sharp as I was in the morning. I'm a better morning person. Some people are different. Some people can go in the afternoon. Whatever it is that fits you, you can schedule however you want.” (11:08—11:34)
  • “What we do is, we do all the major stuff in the morning. So, we call it major and minor time. So, majors would be all the major procedures: crowns, bridges, implants, All-On-4s, dental reconstructions, you name it. That's what we do in the morning. And we want to be pretty well finished up with all the major time by about 1:00. So, then 1:00 comes, and then we switch over to consultations, new patient exams, crown and cementations, denture adjustments, denture deliveries, all the stuff that you can do without concentrating all that hard. So, that's how our days are broken up.”  (11:35—12:16)
  • “What you just said happens where, ‘Dr. Lillis says these procedures are at 8:00 in the morning.’ ‘I can't come in at 8:00.’ ‘Okay. Well, he has a 10:00.’ ‘I can't. Give me an afternoon.’ And they're like, ‘Well, he doesn't do this procedure in the afternoon.’ And it’s amazing, what I've seen over the years is that if you tell patients that, they’ll come to see you when you want to see them.” (13:52—14:12)
  • “Every dentist should have this [referee concept] in their arsenal. And what we say is, ‘Hey, listen, Mrs. Jones. I'm just a referee. I call them as I see them. It’s your money, your mouth, and your time. You do whatever you want. This tooth has a crack in it. If the crack goes a little bit further and gets in the nerve chamber, you may need a root canal. That's okay. You're not going to die because you had a root canal. If the crack goes beyond the nerve chamber, it gets into the root structure and the whole tooth has a vertical root fracture and you end up losing the tooth and you need a dental implant, that's okay too. You're not going to die because you needed a dental implant.’ So, I just call them as I see them.” (19:47—20:26)
  • “The best thing we ever did — case acceptance went through the roof. When you just tell people the truth and you back off, that's it.” (20:32—20:39)
  • “When people are transitioning to this type of scheduling, the first thing you should do for the first couple months before you start going into this, time your procedure. So, whatever procedures you do in your office, whether it be endo, perio, restorative, time them and see how long it’s taking you to do it. So, if you do a crown prep in an hour-and-a-half, then that's your crown prep time. If you do an MO composite and it takes you 25, 30 minutes, then that's it. And then, write all those times down. And do it over a couple of months so that you get a good running average. And then, that's how you pre-block your schedule so that you can always stay on time. And here’s the other thing too. If you're not staying on time, then you have to make a decision to, ‘Okay. Is that procedure really worth doing?’” (23:43—24:34)
  • “Predictability is the key to dentistry. It’s the key. If you can start, stop, and you can run on time and you know exactly where the end is going to be before you start, that's the key.” (25:17—25:29)
  • “We preheat the patients before they leave. The front desk will say, ‘Hey, Mrs. Jones. Your appointment’s at 8:00 on Monday morning. Just so you know, we run on time. So, we expect you to be on time out of common courtesy for the other patients which we reserve time for.’ So, that's a verbal skill that we use at the front desk. If the patient, let's say it’s an hour appointment and they're 15 to 20 minutes late. Here’s the thing — and it’s hard to do — we reschedule them. And, yes, it sucks taking the hit on production. It sucks taking 45 minutes to an hour of chair time. Yeah, I get it. But what we found over the years is that if we don't do that, it’s just going to be a consistent pattern over, and over, and over again. So, we feel like it’s paying dividends down the road if we can just do that to our patients.” (25:34—26:28)
  • “When you pre-block your schedule out, you have pockets of air during your day. And I use those pockets of air to do all of my treatment planning. And then, I'll sit down with my treatment planning coordinator during those times. And I'll usually do the treatment plan, I'll get it done, and then I'll just find when she’s available, and we’ll go over it together.” (28:55—29:14)
  • “Let's say a patient calls and tries to cancel on me about 72 hours out. What we typically will do is we’ll give them a verbal warning. And the verbal warning is not like scolding them, it’s just saying, ‘Okay, Mrs. Jones. I'm looking through the schedule and, oh my gosh, I can't get you in on that block for another eight to ten weeks. And I know that Dr. Lillis is really concerned about this,’ because we have motivators in my comprehensive notes. And so, what ends up happening is they’ll say, ‘Are you sure you can't make it?’ And then, they’ll say, ‘No, I just can't make it.’ ‘Okay, no problem. I'll tell you what we’re going to do. We’re going to put your chart right next to the computer, because I don't want you to wait that long. And if we get any movement, I'll give you a call.’ And here’s the thing. We could have an open block tomorrow. We could have opening times tomorrow. But the team knows that if we give them that open time tomorrow, they're just going to continue to behave the way they do.” (31:28—32:31)
  • “On the reconstructive cases, we will typically take a half-deposit down on that appointment — and that's nonrefundable. So, that patient cannot cancel. When they schedule that appointment, we tell them that we take a deposit on the time and it’s nonrefundable. If you don't show up, that's fine. But we’re going to keep the money, and then you're going to reschedule. So, let's say that you're doing 12 crowns that morning. We’re going to take six crowns as the deposit, and that's nonrefundable. So, I say this, and all the young dentists and some dentists out there would be like, ‘Oh my gosh. I can't believe you do that.’ And I'm like, ‘Yeah. Wait till it happens to you about two or three times, and you eat that time, plus you pay your staff, and you pay the rent. You get over it pretty quickly.” (33:57—34:49)
  • “Do whatever you're passionate about. Don't spend one more day at a practice that you're miserable at. So, if you're just miserable day to day, go make it your way.” (38:43—38:55)
  • “You can do whatever you want to do in our profession. But you've got to stick to it, and you've got to have a lot of stomach lining. Because people are going to tell you, ‘You can't do it.’ There are going to be bumps in the road, and you've just got to persevere.” (39:59—40:11)
  • “Don't let anybody tell you you can't do things, because you can.” (43:33—43:46)


  • Dr. Lillis’s background. (03:43—04:58)
  • Why this is an important topic in dentistry. (05:27—06:10)
  • Working three-and-a-half days a week. (06:16—08:03)
  • Be a master of your schedule. (09:09—10:09)
  • What his typical practice schedule looks like. (10:19—12:16)
  • How perio fits into this schedule. (12:33—14:16)
  • Figure out the new patient algorithm. (14:47—16:59)
  • Duration of a records appointment. (17:28—19:02)
  • True or false? The more you do upfront, the less you do later with patients. (19:08—19:31)
  • The referee concept. (19:31—21:53)
  • Pre-block emergencies. (22:16—23:09)
  • Stay on time, be on time, and expect patients to be on time. (23:39—26:40)
  • 10-minute blocks versus 15-minute blocks. (26:51—27:18)
  • His philosophy around time in the hygiene chair. (27:30—28:31)
  • When treatment planning and admin tasks get done. (28:50—29:42)
  • When team meetings happen. (29:51—31:02)
  • How to handle cancellations. (31:22—35:41)
  • Adding perio blocks into the schedule. (35:59—37:04)
  • Sometimes, patients don't show up. (37:32—38:11)
  • Advice for young dentists. (38:26—40:20)
  • Last thoughts. (40:53—43:36)
  • Dr. Lillis’s contact information. (43:49—44:29)
  • Q&A for Dr. Lillis: (45:00—50:23)

Reach Out to Dr. Pat Lillis:

Dr. Lillis’s email: [email protected] 

Dr. Lillis’s website: https://opdentaldesign.com/

Dr. Lillis’s office number: (913) 451-7330

Dr. Lillis’s cell phone number: (913) 231-9422

Dr. Lillis’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/patrick.lillis.33


Dr. Pat Lillis Bio:

Dr. Patrick Lillis graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Biomedical Science. After graduation, Dr. Lillis attended Creighton University School of Dentistry in Omaha, Nebraska, where he received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree. Upon completion of dental school, Dr. Lillis did a two-year Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry in Kansas City, Missouri. This university-based residency program provided a heavy emphasis on implants and cosmetic and complex restorative dental modalities. Dr. Lillis’ training provided him a unique opportunity to focus and treat extremely difficult dental complexities. He had the opportunity to work under some of the foremost leaders in implant, prosthodontic, and cosmetic dentistry in the Midwest.

Dr. Lillis is among an elite network of dentists from around the country who routinely work together to discuss the latest dental technology. In addition to running a practice, Dr. Lillis holds the distinction of being a keynote speaker for several dental manufacturers. This allows him to lecture on such topics as dental implants and full-mouth rehabilitation utilizing esthetic and adhesive dentistry. Further, Dr. Lillis has had the opportunity to speak at numerous study clubs and larger peer-reviewed meetings nationwide. He routinely carries out these complex dental procedures in his practice both on patient and doctor referrals.

When he isn’t running a full-time private practice, lecturing, and teaching, he loves spending time with his wife and two children. His hobbies include running, skiing, and golf. 

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